Instruments

piano lessons
Instruments

Why You Should Learn to Read Music

Imagine taking piano lessons and not reading music. While guitar tabs work pretty well for guitar lessons, it’s a little different taking instructional piano tutorials without sheet music. On a stringed instrument, you can name the string and where to pluck it, and this is how the earliest musical notation evolved in Sumer, in 2000 BC. But as musical instruments advanced, so did musical notation. By the time of the Byzantine Empire, notation had improved to the point of using a system based on differential, that is, according to the rise or fall of a pitch. But the lack of an absolute system led to the emergence of the modern staff notation we know today.

Modern musical notation

Guido d’Arezzo lived in the early eleventh century in northern Italy. He was a Benedectine monk who recognized how much difficulty singers had remembering Gregorian chants. Around 1025, he created the “ut-re-me-fo-so-la” mnemonic and the four line staff. This led to the standardization of melody, but it took another few hundred years for rhythm to be accounted for through standardized note lengths, and another nearly three centuries for the use of regular measures to come into play.

Reading music to improve your style

Today’s notation includes many different notes about how to play a piece, from tempo to expression and dynamics. These words above the staff can make for large differences in how the same piece can be played if only the notes and rhythm are followed; they allow for a personal touch on each note. Glenn Gould was very well known for playing Bach in a very individualistic style, so much so, that after Gould, it was hard to play certain Bach pieces in any other way. Indeed, Gould claimed that he often studied piano by reading sheet music instead of playing it. It also helped that Gould could memorize on sight, but hey, if he didn’t know how to read music, he might never have become as good as he was!

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Instruments

Why Violin Teachers Matter

violin lessons nyc

The worst violin teacher

When I was a kid, I used to take lessons for the the instrument, the violin, where I went to school. Thing was, my teacher was the worst. Her name was Ms. Ruby and she was this little angry woman who wore her hair in a bun with bristly strands sticking up. She’d spent her whole life teaching violin after she tried to make a career out of playing. It still burned her that Juilliard rejected her application. She was a real stickler for dedication to the instrument, since she’d never had enough to make it. So if we ever forgot our instruments she took it as a personal affront and she made us write out the word ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ throughout the entire period.

One day I forgot my violin and wrote ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ forty-one times. The next time I forgot my violin I thought about the first time I’d done it and I was dead set on writing ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ more than forty-one times. I wrote it forty-four times that day.

The next time I forgot my violin Ms. Ruby was in rare form. While I set out to write ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidotious’ forty-five times, Jimmy was acting a fool. Jimmy who was the class clown. He played the flute. He was making obscene gestures with it and Ms. Ruby got so mad, the veins on her neck stood out and we all thought she was going to send Jimmy to the principal to be expelled. Instead she just left the classroom. We didn’t know what to do. It was like we were free, but we weren’t quite sure if we were really free. This girl named Shawna told Jimmy he was really in trouble when she came back. Then Jimmy started to yell at her. And just as pandemonium was set to break out, Ms. Ruby walked back in and it was dead quiet. She said she’d had to leave or else she would’ve strangled Jimmy. She wasn’t joking.

I hated Ms. Ruby, too, of course. By extension I hated taking violin lessons. I didn’t learn anything I wanted to. I always thought of my violin as a burden, as something I had to learn. Until I graduated from fifth grade and I didn’t have to take a musical instrument any more.

Forgiveness after violin lessons

After Ms. Ruby, I could never feel the same way about violin lessons. It wasn’t until recently that I started to play guitar and understood that it wasn’t the violin’s fault; it was Ms. Ruby’s. Having a great teacher makes all the difference in how you practice and get excited about violin lessons.

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Inspiration - Instruments

The Best Cafes in the UES

The Upper East Side is a great place to hang out on an Indian Summer day. Quiet streets, lots of bars and restaurants, Central Park and Museum Mile? With so much to do between guitar lessons, it’s nice to find a quiet cafe to sit in. And while nothing beats pure practice, sometimes reading a book on guitar theory can help you better understand the science of music as well as re-motivate you to get back to playing. Try a cup of coffee from any of these five best Upper East Side cafes before your next strum.

DTUT

Also known as Downtown Uptown, this coffee shop has a great bean source and friendly baristas that serve tasty sandwiches. Their book-laden shelves and plush old-school furniture offer a great ambience during a round of macchiato and chocolate fondue, or while you sip a beer or glass of wine in the evening and classic guitar solos play on the speakers.

DTUT is located at 1744 2nd Ave between 90th and 91st Streets.

Birch

Known for their strong cold brews, Birch on the Upper East Side is a great place to drop in for a quick cup on your way to work or before your next guitar lesson. A few sips of this iced coffee and you will be cruising up and down the fretboard. They’re open every day from 7am to 8pm. You can also find Birch on the Upper West Side, in Flatiron, and on 7th Ave, off 14th Street.

Birch is located at 134 1/2 E62nd st.

East Harlem Cafe

best coffee in ues
Technically it’s not the Upper East Side, but we felt like this local hot spot deserves a mention. Their coffee, pastries and sandwiches are some of the best in the area, and the work vibe attracts a lot of young people. Bring Fretboard Logic and buckle down for an hour with a hot cup of joe and a red velvet cupcake!

East Harlem Cafe is at 1651 Lexington Ave., at the corner of 104th.

Corrado Bread and Pastry

Corrado is a great place for a respite after a long day of practicing guitar. Their pastries are world-class, perfect accompaniments to a delicious macchiato. Right near Hunter College, this cafe also attracts a very international clientele. Of course, they have baguette sandwiches and a variety of non-caffeinated drinks too.

Corrado is at 960 Lexington Ave. on the corner of 71st St.

Java Girl

This cafe is definitely on this list for tea. With a wide variety of loose leaf green and black teas, that’s not to say that their coffee is anything less than amazing. You can buy any one of their many coffees by the pound and take it home to keep you company during your next round of guitar-picking blues.

Java Girl is located at 348 E66th St., between 1st and 2nd Aves.

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violin lessons nyc
Instruments

This Is How Hard Is It To Become a Professional Violinist

It all starts with the violin. If you live in NYC, you have access to one of the best Philharmonics in the world. The New York Philharmonic is the oldest in the U.S., founded in 1842, and today they have won twelve Grammys. If you’re growing up as a kid in NYC taking violin lessons, you have some really great examples to follow.

High-Intensity Practice

If you continue with your violin lessons for a few years, you’ll start to get good. If you combine that with a serious passion for the instrument, your chances of becoming a professional violinist increase dramatically. It all comes down to how hard you practice, not when you started. Even though the Suzuki method advocates that the younger kids start the better chances they have, those who begin playing violin after grade school can definitely still become pros. They may be intimidated by how younger kids show superb talent but a lot of the time, these prodigies are forced to practice between two and three hours a day for years in order to further their chances of playing professionally and wind up playing like machines, without the deep, resonant feeling originally intended for the music.

If you’ve started violin later, you can still play professionally, you just need to catch up by practicing more. It can be hard to practice more than four hours a day, but studies show that the more you practice the more you will be willing and want to play. Professional violinists practice sometimes more than eight hours a day. That’s what you have to look forward to if you’re really serious about making a career out of playing violin.

Violin Love Outweighs Tough Competition

Once you have those thousands of hours of practice under your belt, you still have to beat out the competition. Usually only three or four seats open up every year across the U.S., with hundreds of people trying out. One wrong note immediately disqualifies you, and that’s not all. You can play the violin perfectly, but if your playing lacks a certain emotion, a certain feeling for the piece, that will separate you from the best. It can be nerve-wracking playing this way, even before you’re playing on a stage, but it’s part of the game. If your playing can stand out during an audition, your chances of moving on to the next round will improve. And while competition can be stiff, sometimes playing to beat friends for a seat in an orchestra, if you love violin, if it’s part of your essence, then you have to keep playing.

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Instruments

Classical vs. Acoustic Guitar For Lessons

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Whether you’re starting NYC guitar lessons or you’ve been taking them for a while, you may be thinking about getting a new guitar. A few weeks back we guided you through the best options for electric guitars, but if you want to stay traditional, you have two main choices.

Classical vs. Acoustic

Classical guitars are the original guitars. Their necks are thicker, they use thicker nylon strings, the neck meets the body at the 12th fret (so fewer chances for solos), and their bodies are slightly smaller. Acoustic guitars have thinner, steel strings, the neck meets the body at the 14th fret, and their bodies can be much larger for a bigger, more resonant sound.

Typically classical guitars are used to play classical music, while acoustic guitars are better for folk songs, rock, and blues. Classical guitars can be cheaper than acoustic, so in a sense they can be good if you haven’t yet taken NYC guitar lessons and you don’t know if guitar is something you want to stick with for a long time.

Fingerpicking Styles

Fingerpicking has a lot of styles, though it’s traditionally associated with classical guitar, since in the days of yore, plectrums, or picks, didn’t exist. In most fingerpicking scores, the finger is indicated by letters that refer to the Spanish word for finger, p being thumb, i for index, m middle, a for ring, and c or e is pinky. Traditional classical styles include: i-m-i-m-im; i-m-a-i-m-a; p-a-m-i-p-a-m-i.

North American fingerpicking styles typically use the thumb to play the three bass strings and the other fingers to play the higher strings. The result is a bluesy sound that has its roots in African-American blues players trying to imitate the ragtime sound popular at the end of the 19th century. Today, it’s almost a standard style for acoustic guitar fingerpicking.

Ultimately, the kind of guitar you choose will impact how the kind of music you play. Having taken NYC guitar lessons in the past will definitely help you if you’re looking to buy your first guitar or your second!

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piano lessons
Instruments - Piano

What’s the Right Age to Start Piano Lessons?

We all know Mozart started playing piano around the age of three, but if we suspect our children aren’t musical geniuses, what’s the ideal age to start them on lessons?

Firstly, bear in mind that Mozart came from a musical family. His father was a composer and taught his older sister how to play the piano, or the 18th century equivalent, the harpsichord. All this music around young Mozart kept him intrigued. It was only natural for him to imitate his big sister by thumping away on the piano when he had the chance.

Your Music Habits

In judging when to start your child’s piano lessons, consider how often you play music in your home. How does your baby respond? By dancing, laughing and raising his arms in glee? If yes, do you or the baby’s other parent play piano or violin, actively practicing? It’s better if you do, since kids love to imitate. It’s a great idea to start your child’s piano lessons around the age of three or four if music is already a large part of your lives.

If it’s not so much, but you want to see it as such, think about taking your kids to group classes while they’re young. For children under the age of three, these usually require parents’ involvement. Often by the age of five, kids are ready to learn an instrument with the violin or piano lessons. By age seven, it’s okay to start guitar lessons.

How to Get Kids to Practice

The hardest part about getting kids to appreciate their violin or piano lessons is to get them to practice on the regular. Try rewarding them with a treat like ice cream or soda for every half hour they practice. Private piano lessons can be a good addition to lessons at school, where kids can’t always get the individual attention they might need.

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Instruments

Guitar Hacks to Make Your Lessons Easier

The best and hardest-to-stomach teaching you will learn from guitar lessons is that practice is the best way to get good at guitar. But while scales and chords are all well and good, we wondered if there were any quick guitar hacks to make you a better player, or at least impress your teacher during your next guitar lesson.

Guitar Hacks

Here’s a video that shows some cool tricks, like tuning your guitar to an open chord, and sharpening picks on a rug.

If you feel like some of those tips were above your head, keep reading. The best thing to do to start your practice routine is to start with scales. By getting them out of the way first, you can reward yourself by playing a song after. It’s crucial to play with a beat, even when you’re picking scales. Make sure to alternate the direction of your pluck. Plucking down makes a different sound from plucking up, and if you only pluck in one direction, you will have trouble going the other way in the future.

Getting Guitar Fundamentals Right

Perhaps the most important scale to practice for your guitar lessons is the pentatonic. Once you learn that, you can isolate pieces of it to solo. Try to learn it in different keys, and move it up and down the fretboard to familiarize yourself with the different sounds you can make.

When learning songs, play the recorded version of the song you’re learnign while you strum to listen to how it’s played. You may hear certain melodies you hadn’t before. Also check to see if there are video performances on Youtube of that song. Watching how your favorite guitar player can help you learn certain tricks.

It may be tempting to speed through a new chord progression or scale while you learn it, but it’s much more effective to slow down and make sure you nail what’s giving you trouble. If you still have difficulty, ask your teacher for extra tips at your next guitar lesson.

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Instruments - Lessons

Guitar Lessons: Some Quick Tips for Big Improvements

So you’ve been taking lessons on the guitar for a few months now, and you’re finally starting to get the hang of things. You practice regularly, you’re careful about your technique, maybe you’ve even convinced your instructor to let you learn a few of your favorite songs.

However, there’s always an aspect to any instrument that nobody tells you about and you have to learn on your own. Here’s a few quick tips that will help you see drastic improvements.

1. Change you guitar strings regularly

Those strings get worn down from all that guitar shredding. Some people swear by changing the strings once a month, but if you manage to change them out once every 3 months or so, you should be fine. Learn how to do it yourself (it’s easier than you think!).

2. Warm up before you play!

Just like runners need to stretch before they hit the pavement, you should be warming up your fingers before you delve into your daily rundown of guitar solos. Go through chord progressions over and over to get your fingers loosened. My guitar teacher used to take the first 20 minutes of class warming up with chord progressions. Sometimes I wanted to hit him over the head with my guitar because of it. Now, I realize the value in it when I can stretch my fingers to hit the high notes.

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3. Get some musical background

How can you expect to ever be an expert at something if you don’t know the basic knowledge behind it? Taking some music theory courses or reading some music history books will transform you from guitarist to musician. It’s going to take a while to get the ins and outs of it, but once you start to truly understand music, you won’t just be playing songs anymore.

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4. Let other people hear you

I get it, playing in front of other people can be scary. Playing WITH other people can be even scarier. However, anyone who plays an instrument knows that everyone is always at different skill levels. Let people know you’re learning and are just looking ot jam, and get feedback from those who are willing to listen to you play. That is why you’re taking guitar lessons in the first place, right? So people can hear your wonderful music? Then get out there and share some tunes with the world!

guitar lessons nyc

5. Record yourself

Sometimes you just need to hear it for yourself. You can’t really know how you’re sounding if you’re focused too much on just trying to get through the song. Record yourself and play it back. It will be very enlightening. You can gauge if you speed up when you play (most of us do), how smooth your transitions are, if you’re playing the song the way you think you are in your head. Nothing helps improvement like personal insight.

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Instruments - Lessons

The Best Violinists of All Time

nyc violin lessons

Paganini, by Ingres.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

What makes a great violinist? Just like most things in life, it helps to practice a lot. Once you have gained enough confidence from your violin training, you should have a broad capacity for bowing, dynamics, sound and color. It may take years, even decades, but if you really love violin, you can start offering violin lessons of your own, and maybe even start composing and aiming to topple the big names, three of which are featured below.

Violin Practice Makes Perfect

Paganini is considered one of the best violinists of all time. Why? Because he was so well-practiced. Talk about violin lessons: Paginini used to play ten hours a day. When he died, many assumed he was supernatural, and thought he would have extra cartilage in his fingers; however, the cartilage in his hands was worn down, much like that in a marathon runner’s knee, from playing so much. He is known for having never missed a note on his Guarneri violin, made in 1743, and for playing his entire Caprices on one string. Here’s one of his most famous ones:

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Corelli was born in 1653 and is known for having influenced a number of violin techniques, such as posture, bowing form, and fingering. He was known for despising high notes, and for rarely playing above the D string. In one famous anecdote, Corelli refused to play an overture that included an altissimo A in Handel’s oratorio, The Triumph of Time and Truth. He was offended when the composer, 32 years his junior, played it anyway. Bach was heavily influenced by Corelli too.

http://youtu.be/1t8aLJcL7J4

The Perennial Four Seasons

Vivaldi is another great baroque violinist, and today is probably the second most popular baroque composer only to Bach. In fact, Bach drew upon the bright melodies of Vivaldi’s concerti, of which The Four Seasons is a prime example, in his St. Matthew’s Passion, St. John’s Passion and cantatas. Bizarrely, despite Vivaldi’s fame while alive, after his death his work passed into obscurity. It was not until the 20th century that a resurgence in popularity for Vivaldi arrived.

Hopefully, listening to these amazing compositions will inspire you to continue with your NYC violin lessons, or to start them if you haven’t already!

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Instruments - Lessons

The First Step in Becoming a Guitar God

 

Getting guitar training is the first step in becoming a guitar god. Well, after you buy a guitar. The next part, the key to getting really good at guitar, is practice. Guitar lessons offer a mentor and way to stay on track. Think of each lesson as a weekly test that will keep you determined to impress your teacher. Your guitar lesson instructor can correct any mistakes you may be making, and challenge you to learn harder songs and techniques. After that hour of guitar lessons, it’s on you to love your instrument and play every day, to prepare for next week.

Guitar Gods of the Past

To give you an idea of how past guitar gods have made reached the pantheon, look at Eddie Van Halen. He used to strap his guitar around his neck and sit on his bed playing for hours at a time. When other kids were going out to party, he was practicing. That’s dedication. Eventually he become one of the world’s greatest.

NYC guitar lessons are super helpful when you have questions about technique, when you think you’re doing something wrong, or when you want to learn a new song or style of playing. Sometimes playing really slowly, making sure you hit all the right notes, or making sure that your strum pattern is perfect and everything else is right is the best way to practice by yourself. Listening to your favorite guitar solos can inspire you to learn them, bringing out your love for music even more and making it easy to practice guitar for half an hour a day. You can find tabs for solos and your favorite songs online. Also try to listen to classical music, to appreciate the foundation for awesome riffs and sick solos. Eddie Van Halen was a student of classical piano before he ever picked up a guitar. Reading music can help too.

Different (Guitar) Strokes

Stevie Ray Vaughan—a blues guitar god—didn’t know how to read sheet music. Then again, he also had cocaine and whiskey for breakfast during his later years—not exactly a role model. Some guitar gods reach their status through a natural amount of talent. Music theory is also important, and because of its difficulty, it’s a great subject to explore with your mentor during guitar lessons.

Another guitar great who played as much as he could was Jimi Hendrix. He couldn’t afford guitar lessons, since he was so poor growing up in Seattle, so he took guitar lessons from blues masters. Jimi is perhaps best known for how he used distortion so originally. He was also famous for doing crazy tricks while performing, like biting and smashing his guitar. Some people say that he was sloppy, that he would take tabs of acid and put them in his headband, so that while he performed his pores opened and he became high. But one night he was challenged to play sober, and he played the same way to a standing ovation. Because his hands were so big, he was able to use his thumb over the fretboard to fret the lower E string, thereby creating melodies that are otherwise difficult or impossible to play. Though this technique existed before Jimi, in the early days of blues guitar, it was probably he who popularized it.

Guitar Lessons are Still Your Best Bet

Keep in mind that a lot of the guitar gods who didn’t take guitar lessons were troubled souls who often died young. Who knows—maybe it was easier for them to follow a path of destruction without a guitar mentor to guide them along the way.

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